Opinion: Two years of opportunities, pitfalls for Democrats are on display

The Georgia General Assembly kicked off its 2017 session this week, drawing most of my attention now and for the next few months. But the transition of power in Washington is also unfolding, and this week has — as is customary when a new president is entering office — brought us a flurry of confirmation hearings for cabinet appointments.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is surrounded by reporters after testifying against the confirmation of attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions. Which, of course, was the whole point of his testimony. (Al Drago / The New York Times)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is surrounded by reporters after testifying against the confirmation of attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions. Which, of course, was the whole point of his testimony. (Al Drago / The New York Times)

We’ve previously covered the fact that Democrats unilaterally changed the filibuster rules for most presidential appointments, giving them scant chance now of blocking Donald Trump’s nominees. That doesn’t mean they’re laying down; nor should they. But it’s important to understand why they’re making the kinds of protests they’re making, and the biggest of those reasons — the 2018 and 2020 elections — are summarized nicely by Caitlin Huey-Burns at Real Clear Politics.

The confirmation process, she notes, is “one of the first steps in (Democrats’) rebuilding effort following painful November losses.” While this is true generally, it is most obvious in specific instances. Particularly the unprecedented nature of Sen. Cory Booker’s testimony Wednesday against fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Trump nominee for attorney general.

“No sitting senator has testified against another in a confirmation hearing — a historical tidbit Booker isn’t shy about pointing out.  While the first-term senator argues that his colleague’s history regarding civil rights, immigration, and voting rights warrant the revolutionary move, others may see it as a way for Booker to build up his bona fides as a party leader — particularly since Sessions is essentially on a glide path to confirmation.

“‘I believe, like perhaps all of my colleagues, that in the choice between standing with Senate norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country,’ Booker told the Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

“The senator’s statement could have been read as something of a stump speech. ‘The arc of the universe does not just naturally curve toward justice – we must bend it,’ he said in opposing Sessions.”

Of course, as Huey-Burns also points out, not all Democrats will see things the same way — and the least likely to do so are the most vulnerable ones come 2018.

“If Booker represents one aspect of a party in the process of post-election recovery, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin represents another. As does Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly. And North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp. And Montana’s Jon Tester.

“All are all up for re-election in 2018 and represent states Trump won overwhelmingly. Democrats will also have to defend Senate seats in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which are now technically Trump states. As a result, the midterm map is challenging for Democrats, and Republicans hope to secure a filibuster-proof majority. Trump may get some support from vulnerable Democrats for his Cabinet picks, or his other priorities such as filling the Supreme Court vacancy. Manchin has expressed support for Sessions, for example, and has spoken in person and over the phone with Trump on recent occasions.”

The biggest threat to Democrats over the next four years will be the inherent tension between their interests in the 2018 election vs. the 2020 one. They spent the last several years losing ground in the midterms, and now they’ve lost the presidency, too. The kind of politics it takes to become more competitive in a year like 2018, keeping the party’s furthest-left instincts at bay, is probably the same as it will take in 2020. But the (very, very early) leading contenders for the nomination in 2020 are people like Booker and Elizabeth Warren — not the kind of Democrats who tend toward that kind of politics.

Whether it’s the GOP or the Democrats who fare the best over the next two years will probably come down to which can manage the most unity the most often. I wouldn’t make any assumptions at this point about which party that will be.

Reader Comments 0

50 comments
AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Isn't it funny how the abortion mongers are the same ones who want to import every foreigner in the world into our country? Do they get their kicks killing little black babies or what? Explain the alternatives to me, I'm listening.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45  You explain how you could know that " the abortion mongers are the same ones who want to import every foreigner in the world into our country." Even better, why you write such stupid things.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Another persons life is unacceptable because it affects your wallet. Think about that for a second. Delve into the sickness of it. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 A good description of the people who complain about high health insurance premiums because other people are being helped by Obamacare to get insurance and thus to live and be healthy.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Kyle nibbled around the edges today of the point I've been trying to make now for months. Even before the election results came in, I was the one telling everyone who would listen that we no longer have any viable political parties. And this is the best news that all who love America could ever hear. I am no longer a Republican, I am a Trumplican (trademark.) There is a person in charge of our country now who only wants the best for it, not the best for his team or his tribe or his faction or his cult. He wants what is best for his country. Me too. Bury the hatchets. Turn the swords into plowshares (lol.) Watch as we destroy what you in the crazed media feed on. What you need, you have to have, to even exist. You, in the media, you in the "opposition," you in the aggrieved, have been hollowed out. You no longer own the pulpit. Those days are gone. 


You want to save yourselves? Set aside the screaming, set aside the mindless opposition, join in the forging of the new direction. The pages have not yet been written and will be written by all of us. As I have said before, the olive branch is offered, will you take it or will you be put asunder? 


You will not win, you are blowing air into a bubble that has already been popped.


Your choice, one that you should seriously consider. Better days are ahead for all who will accept them, as they are.


Fact.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Minor correction, I am no longer a Republican, I am an American.


That is all.

breckenridge
breckenridge

What proggie ever wanted to cut taxes, defund Planned Parenthood, and enforce the immigration laws?

Defunding Planned Parenthood would be a fiscally liberal debacle of the highest order.  PP spends  over $200 million a year providing birth control to poor women who could not afford it otherwise.  Take that away and you would see a huge huge increase, far more than $200 million per year, in welfare, food stamp, Medicaid, etc requests for assistance.  Defunding PP would also be a slap in the face to the 3 conservatives who worked hardest to get the organization funding in the first place - George H W Bush, Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon.

Put Planned Parenthood out of the abortion business? Yeah, let's do that. There are at least 3 safe and effective drugs available in pill form that will terminate a pregnancy.  Pass a federal law requiring all states to make them available by prescription to any woman in America. That will end invasive abortion immediately. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@breckenridge  You have no idea what you're talking about. Plain and simply Planned Parenthood is in the abortion business. Anything else they offer is already available to woman at no or very little cost locally. As for prescriptions, none necessary, they're now available OTC for pre-pregnancy prevention. You really are in the dark of ignorance. You keep up your inane talk about fiscal conservatism and Barry Goldwater, I'll bet you weren't even a gleam in your fathers eye when Goldwater ran for president. Your stupid posts about people born in the South and your rant against Evangelical Christians only reveal a very ignorant little man. You're not fit to call yourself a conservative much less an American.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@SGTGrit @breckenridge 

If a woman decides to have an abortion, it is not for filthy, manure-sucking social conservatives to tell her otherwise. She is exercising her legal rights.


The state of Texas managed to partially shut down Planned Parenthood 3 years ago. In the first year, Texas taxpayers paid an additional $120 million related to unintended pregnancies that directly resulted from poor women losing their birth control provided by PP. Texas has a population of about 30 million in a country of 350 million people.  So, rounding up, Texas has about 10% of the US population. Ergo cutting out the $200 million spent annually by PP on birth control would result in an annual taxpayer liability of $1 billion.


But the $120 million is the tip of the iceberg.  That number is simply the medical costs associated with the birth.  In actuality defunding PP would be a multi-billion annual boondoggle.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@SGTGrit @breckenridge 

Also remember..........if you are an American, and you believe religious beliefs should be turned into legislation, then you are a dirty filthy traitor to your country.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@breckenridge @SGTGrit People that factor human lives into budgetary line items or social concerns have a lot in common with the Nazis. This is not a reactionary or inflammatory statement, it is just simply the truth. 


You cannot see life as being a burden on society and be a decent human being at the same time. These positions are like oil and water.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Booker was just trying to establish his presumed place on the side of his minority base. I don't think for a minute he really believes what he said, he just knew he needed to try and diminish the crush that some blacks have for Trump.  He was trying to stop the bleeding before it became serious, trying to get the runaways back on the plantation, by scaring them about Sessions as AG.


Warren is just too white to ever turn out the base any better than Hillary.  

Hapless
Hapless

@RafeHollister Spot on. That and he sees himself as the next Obama expecting only he will get the black vote motivated

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

A nice gentle and soothing way to say the democrat party is kaput.


The people of the United States are sick and tired of the mass hysteria and identity politics, that crap only plays well in kalifornia anymore. But what else do the democrats have? You can tell who the Republicans are in the room even with your eyes closed, they are the ones talking policy, constitutional matters, economic concerns while the democrats shriek on about abortion and other mindlessness. 


It's time to let the democrats and kalifornia go.


The rest of us want to Make America Great Again.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 The people of the United States are sick and tired of the mass hysteria and identity politics, that crap only plays well in kalifornia anymore.

There were 66 million voters in California?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@MarkVV @AndyManUSA#45 Granted, there are a lot of dumb and ate up people in middle America but, thankfully, not quite the majority that Mexifornia has of them.


Electoral College, Yes!

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 @MarkVV The right-wingers try to convince - mostly themselves - that the Republicans won a great victory in the 2016 national election. They did not. They lost seats in the House, they lost seats in the Senate. They won the Presidency only because of the undemocratic system of the presidential election, but voters demonstrated their preference for the candidate of the Democrats by 3 million votes.

 

MarkVV
MarkVV

The future of the Democratic party is difficult to predict, and much depends on what Trumps presidency will actually turn out to be. The same is true, however, of the Republican party. So far, Trump’s performance as President-elect portends a brighter future for Democrats than for Republicans.

 

Starik
Starik

@MarkVV Indeed. The Republicans have a chance to run government their way, and we'll see how people feel in 2 years. The Democrats will, however, need to find younger and better candidates.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@Starik @MarkVV


Last time we had a Republican president, we created more instability in the middle east (Trump main talking point of how he was against the Iraq war) and had the biggest financial collapse in our countries history (hence the wave of regulations in response).


So I agree, that a Trump presidency is more damaging to the Republican party then the Democrats. I know it seems crazy to say that now but the potential for disaster is much greater under President Trump.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik @MarkVV  That they most certainly will need to do. The Democrat depth chat is pretty lean, while the Republicans have a lot of up and comers including some attractive minorities.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@MarkVV  Trump has tapped some very bright people for his cabinet. As for Trump, the chief executive, we can count on him being an unorthodox president but ineffective, that I wouldn't predict. I think the Democrats have plenty to worry about and it's showing

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Booker and Elizabeth Warren is where the democratic party is headed. Recall that Bernie Sanders had a very strong showing in last election cycle. That wing of the party will just continue to grow.


Combine with the many mistakes Trump will make (and every president makes them), you will see a more liberal candidate then Obama.


And I would hesitate from calling Wisconsin and Penn. Trump states. People are looking for handouts. Trump offered them some. And when he doesn't come through, they will go onto the next candidate promising handouts.

Starik
Starik

@McGarnagle Warren will be over 70 in 2020. Booker would reinforce the belief among working class whites that the Democrats are the party of black folks' interests only. We need new names, non-minority and younger.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Starik @McGarnagle The reason Hillary lost was because of less African American turnout and higher than expected turnout in rural areas.  The rural turnout will go down as Trump actually has to govern and his approval rating falls.  Booker could increase the turnout of African Americans.


If he had made it to the general past Clinton, Booker would have won this time. 

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@bu22 @JFMcNamara @Starik @McGarnagle No, the polling was wrong which is why folks were stunned.


She lost 3 states by a combined 70,000 votes.  If you take away the email baggage, the general Clinton hatred and add in a few more African America votes, any generic Democrat wins.  


Fact is, she was just a terrible candidate who couldn't connect with voters with too much baggage.  With all that, she still just barely lost and won the popular vote.

bu22
bu22

@JFMcNamara @bu22 @Starik @McGarnagle Polling was pretty much right on target.  MSM just ignored polls that didn't support their narrative.  Trump lead by 2 in the last poll in both Michigan and Pennsylvania.  The RCP average was 272-266 for Clinton, very close.  And she won Nevada which he was ahead in (but in which she lead the last couple of polls-the opposite situation of PA and MI).  Wisconsin was a bit of a surprise, but Guliani was saying they had a chance a week before the election and Trump spent some time there.  Trump had a governor with a tremendous organization and a speaker of the house and a Senate candidate who had been written off for dead helping him there.

breckenridge
breckenridge

The still emerging story of Trump's ties to Russia are quite troubling.  But far more troubling is the fact that the KGB thug Putin tried to effect the outcome with technological sabotage.


The United States should slap Russia and the evil doer Putin with the strictest sanctions we have ever imposed on any country.

bu22
bu22

@breckenridge What's more troubling is the mass insanity of the left.  I thought the left wing of the Democratic Party was just wrong, not actually insane.

Hapless
Hapless

@breckenridge You are shooting the messenger. They, yet to be proven btw, only exposed the DNC rigging of the Dem primary and Clinton's illegal activity. Put the blame where it lies ok? Where was your concern when Obama used TAXPAYER $ to try and sway the Israeli elections? Where was your concern when Obama interfered with Egypts elections?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

  and now they’ve lost the presidency, too.*


* With 3 million more votes.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Hedley_Lammar Hedley come on , the US is not a true democracy :it is a constitutional republic of 50 states. I know the schools have stopped teaching US history and civics but the level of ignorance shown by many on the AJC blogs is......I was going to say surprising ,but upon further review it is not surprising at all. Many on both sides of the debate are blinded by their partisan ideology when making their comments on the blog.

jhgm63
jhgm63

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Trump is the type of President Grover Norquist wants: "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen" or something different.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Booker and Warren are exactly what we need.  Trump didn't win by promising to be a conservative. He won because he said he wouldn't cut the social programs, promised a better Obamacare, and basically said he would be a one man Union stopping companies from going overseas.  His foreign policy isn't conservative. His religious views were adopted to get votes.  His only real conservative stances were tax cuts, reduced regulation and hating Obama. 


Hillary Clinton lost, but so did conservatism.  If we leave the culture wars out of it, and I know everyone wants to, then I don't see how being more conservative gets votes for anyone given Trump ran against them.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@JFMcNamara


Every well said. Its the lack of intellectual conservatism in Trump that won him the presidency. All the Cruzes and Rubios and Jeb Bushes in the world would have lost to Hillary.


Party unity is overrated. As long as you are bullish about your message, then people will give you their vote.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Hedley_Lammar @JFMcNamara I think the country as a whole has lost more than anybody knows. But to some it is all about the partisan games between the GOP and the Dems. The game continues in DC with a different group of actors , but they are playing in the same partisan dog and pony show. A show where nothing real is ever accomplished to pull the country together.And every issue is made to be a crisis with each side playing up to their bases looking for political victories ,instead of working together for a solution that benefits every American.

bu22
bu22

@McGarnagle @JFMcNamara Rubio and Bush, and probably Cruz as well, according to the polls, would have crushed HRC.  All were running well ahead of Trump vs. HRC.